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27 June 2017, 12:57
A soon to be closed RAF site in Bedfordshire is to be the site of a new world class space and deep-sea training centre.
Blue Abyss, the world's first commercial deep sea to space research, training and test centre, will be at the centre of a multi-million-pound regeneration vision to develop a science, innovation and technology park, that's currently home to RAF Henlow, which is due to shut by 2020.
The £120m facility, Blue Abyss will house the world's biggest 50m deep pool, a hotel, an astronaut training centre including parabolic flight capability, hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers and a human performance centre to enable divers, astronauts and top athletes to perform at the peak of their potential.
Plans include a conference theatre and training rooms, and a 120-bed hotel.
Blue Abyss is designed to fulfill "a crucial role in the growth of the UK's space industry, highlighted by the government in the Queen's Speech last week".
It hopes to start building at the end of the year to start operating in 2019, bringing about 160 new jobs.
The Blue Abyss team plans to reuse some facilities at RAF Henlow, including a centrifuge base already installed at the site for its long-arm human centrifuge for high-G astronaut training.
Blue Abyss will provide an arena for pioneering research and development into extreme environments, which in turn will enable better human performance in deep sea and space environments by encouraging innovation.
The research and development will help to reduce risk, test operational procedures, improve performance and aid exploration in these environments.
The centre will also offer a wide range of experiential 'space preparation' packages for groups and individuals.
These packages will run alongside a ground-breaking commercial astronaut training programme to allow ordinary people to undergo a full astronaut training programme ready for the wave of commercial spaceflight opportunities coming to market.
Blue Abyss' education outreach programme and collaboration with universities will help shape a new generation of scientists and engineers, working with primary schools through to post-graduate and post-doctorate researchers.
The centre's Kuehnegger Human Performance Centre will house specialist diver, astronaut and athlete research and development facilities. The centre will include a microgravity simulation suite with a traversable, full-body suspension system plus additional hypobaric chambers to facilitate hypoxia and altitude training, rehabilitation and physiological studies.